Preparation disaster and emergency response
The Queensland Department of Education (DoE) is responsible for delivering educational services to approximately 515,000 Queensland students through about 1,234 State Schools. This is supported by over 81,000 employees throughout Queensland.
The department is a pillar within all communities and for significant periods has responsibility for our most valuable and vulnerable resource - our children. That responsibility includes their safety and security along with the safety and security of staff and other stakeholders engaged within educational precincts.
DoE disaster and emergency management arrangements follows the direction set by the Disaster Management Strategic Policy Framework (QLD Government) and it applies to those disasters and emergencies (natural hazards and threats from human-caused events) that occur, or are likely to occur, within or impact on:
- state schools including state primary, secondary and special education schools, state environmental education centres and outdoor education centres
- Department of Education workplaces including state schools and (Regional and Central Office accommodation) sites.
The department has developed this approach and arrangements to meet the challenges of disasters which span the planning, preparation, response and recovery phases of disaster management.
Disaster management legislation
Queensland's disaster management arrangements are outlined in the Disaster Management Act 2003 and the State Disaster Management Plan.
This legislation and its supporting plan applies to any natural hazards or human-caused event that causes, or has the potential to cause, serious community disruption that requires a significant coordinated response by the State and other entities to help the community recover from the disruption.
There is a range of legislation, key policies and procedures which direct and support DoE activities in planning, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters and emergencies including:
DoE Disaster and Emergency Management Framework
The department has adopted a framework which outlines the system applied to manage disasters or emergencies. The system includes people, processes and structures to deliver outcomes.
The framework has three levels which are the:
- Disaster and emergency management arrangements
- Structure (which includes the tiers, entities, leaders and core response plans).
Principles of disaster and emergency management
Underpinning the department’s approach to disaster and emergency management are a set of general principles:
- being prepared for action
- all hazards approach
- tiered command and control structures
- tested Emergency Response Plans
- understood roles and responsibilities
- using a Common Operating Picture
- managing risk and uncertainty
- action learning.
The adherence of these principles during the management of responses has an underlying effect of supporting staff to lead and take action.
The prevention phase involves conducting an assessment to identify potential hazards and develop procedures and policies designed to mitigate or prevent damage. Prevention activities include:
- identifying and assessing hazards and associated risks presented by the natural or built environment
- reviewing and improving work practices
- addressing Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) issues
- reviewing relevant policies
- reviewing and improving security including signage, fences and sign in for visitors
- undertaking any school modification
- planning and preparing Emergency Response Plans (ERP).
Emergency and School Security (ESS) is responsible for developing statewide emergency management policy for the department, providing emergency advice and assistance to state schools and DoE workplaces, including operational response services until they move into the Executive Response Team. It also provides advice to assist state schools and DoE workplaces review response and recovery procedures for their ERP.
Every government workplace and state schools in Queensland is required to have a documented ERP as part of its normal operational activities. The purpose of the ERP is to:
- provide details of roles and responsibilities, tasks and contacts for response activities
- minimise the impact of these events on students, staff, volunteers and visitors
- facilitate the return of the state schools or DoE workplace to normal operations as soon as safely possible.
This phase involves the taking of preparatory measures including final development or testing of plans and procedures to ensure that, if an event occurs, state schools and DoE workplaces can make decisions and assign resources to cope with the effects of the event. Preparedness activities include:
- implementation of controls to mitigate risks identified
- communicating the ERPs to all stakeholders
- undertaking Business Continuity Planning (BCP) that considers disruption due to a disaster or emergency
- practice the establishment of response teams and centres
- conducting table-top or functional exercises
- conducting evacuation, lockdown and other scenario exercises regularly, ensuring outcomes are recorded in MyHR WHS.
Event preparedness timeline
The timeline shows a full calendar year from January to December with the following events marked:
- End of January: bushfire season ends
- End of April: cyclone storm season ends
- End of July - bushfire season starts
- End of August - review ERP and update contact details
- Early-mid September - storm season starts
- End of October - cyclone season starts
- A period of three months from May to July - allocated exercise scenario period to test ERP.
With a focus on summer weather events, the above representation is effective. However, when considering the broad nature of disasters or emergencies, this becomes less useful as responses (and subsequent recoveries) need to be ready for year-round implementation and so the prevention and preparation phases are actually concurrent activities. This poses some additional challenges for the department to be ready 24/7 and for 365 days per year.
The department’s response framework identifies three internal levels of command and control, being the strategic (executive), operational (regional) and tactical (school) levels. An additional level, the State level, also exists and this is the interface into the Queensland Disaster Management Committee (QDMC). This structure is consistent with the State arrangements, particularly the emergency services response structures and allows for alignment with other agencies as well as providing delegated decision making authority at each level for operational efficiency.
Preparation – Central office content
The executive level (strategic)
The command and control of the department’s resources during a disaster or emergency ultimately rests with the Director-General. To deliver the required response across the department during critical periods, it is necessary to have a three tiered structure ready to be activated to meet the operational needs.
Executive Response Controller
The strategic level or the executive level response consists of the nominated lead being the Executive Response Controller (ERC) who will be supported by an Executive Response Team (ERT) which will work from, and manage the response, at the Executive Coordination Centre (ECC).
The ERC is responsible to the Director-General. The Assistant Director-General, Infrastructure Services Branch is the nominated ERC and is responsible for activating and directing the level of response across the department.
The ERC will not be on site, but usually located within Central Office at Education House in Brisbane. The ERC, or their delegate, will represent the department on the State Disaster Coordination Group (SDCG) at Kedron and may also have support staff assisting. Alternatively, the ERC may nominate a delegate to represent that role at the SDCG.
The key responsibilities of the ERC include:
- leading the Executive Response Team
- setting the strategy
- guiding and advising the Regional Response Controller(s)
- manage DoE information and establishing the DoE ‘point of truth’
- monitoring the response (adequate and effective)
- seeking external support as required
- connecting to the SDCG at the SDCC.
Executive Response Team
The ERT supports the delivery of the strategic direction, guidance, support and resources to the Regional Response Controllers (RRC) and is the peak disaster management decision-making body in the department in accordance with the Executive Emergency Response Plan.
The management task of this team is to bring together in an integrated, organised and resourced DoE network that can take appropriate and timely action to prevent or mitigate the effects of the disaster or emergency.
A senior officer represents the DoE at the SDCG and may have support staff assisting. This may be the ERC or it may be another delegated member.
The SDCC will have an intelligence group to provide information, intelligence and SITREP’s from the SDCC to stakeholder agencies including the DoE ERT which in turn supports the overall DoE response and decision making.
The structure of the ERT may vary depending on the event. The basic response team structure which follows, is mostly consistent across the regional and school levels:
Executive Response Team structure:
- Executive Response Controller - DDG CS
- DDG SS
- DDG T&S
- DDG ECEC
- ED ODG
- Regional Directors*
- ADG IT
- ADG HR
- ADG F
- DIR CEP
- ADG ISB - Operations Coordinator
- Executive Support Group
- Logistics and Finance
- HR and Welfare
Executive Coordination Centre
The Executive Coordination Centre (ECC) is a temporary facility, activated as required as a place from which an ERC and ERT can monitor, guide and support regional and school controllers managing major DoE responses to disasters or emergencies.
The ECC is located on the 4th Floor of 30 Mary Street, Brisbane. It has the technology to support information gathering, data storage and display along with managing response operations to support the Regions.
The ECC is equipped with information and communication technology that enhances the situational awareness of the ERC and the ERT to better inform decision making at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. The ECC is therefore the place where DoE functional area leaders and any other relevant agency (e.g. BAS) can co-locate representatives who can provide advice on their current capability and contribute to the DoE operational planning and response.
This co-location of key support agencies with DoE enables the ERC to effectively coordinate the response to the emergency but it does so supporting the role and functions of the SDCC at Kedron when activated.
Where circumstances prevent operation or access to the nominated ECC location, alternative arrangements will be made by the Executive Response Controller; this may include working from home arrangements or at the location identified in the Business Continuity Plan.
The decision to activate the ECC will be made by Director-General DoE or the ADG-ISB who will assume the role of the ERC after consideration of:
- the severity of the event, including the number of DoE sites likely to be impacted
- the potential impact on school or regional operations
- the potential impact on the safety of students or staff
- the potential impact on DoE facilities or assets
- other relevant advice.
The ERC may also activate additional staff to assist with the management of the ECC and may invite other officers/sections to sit on the Advisory Group depending on the context of the event.
Planning your disaster or emergency response
The Central Office disaster and emergency response will be guided by:
the DoE Procedure Disaster and Emergency Management:
- Review the disaster and emergency management site for changes and updates
Identify and assess risks for the upcoming season
- Develop, review, update your Emergency Response Plan
- Refresh roles and responsibilities with key staff
- Test your Emergency Response Plan
- Document key decisions on Decision Log
Emergency and School Security
- Phone: (07) 3034 6011 (disaster and emergency management)
- Phone: (07) 3034 6013 (school security)
- School Watch Phone: 13 17 88
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